Pine Bluff took advantage of having its football players joining the team and cruised past Little Rock Mills 70-46 in the first round of the Zebra Invitational Friday afternoon at McFadden Gymnasium.
“The big boys did what I got them in to do,” Pine Bluff head coach Carl Smith said. “We cleaned the glass and got the ball out.
“We were able to run and do some of the stuff we wanted to do out there.”
Pine Bluff (4-3) took a 12-point lead in the second quarter following a three-pointer by Marcus Thomas and a bucket by Roosevelt Murray with 5:23 left in the first half.
David Beasley scored six straight points to close out the first half and the Zebras had a 32-21 lead going into halftime.
“We aren’t where we need to be right now, but we are better than what we were when we were small,” Smith said.
Will Gragg, John Tate and Ladarius Skelton are amongst those joining the team from football. The Pine Bluff football team made it to the 6A state championship before losing to El Dorado.
To start the second quarter, Thomas hit a three-pointer and Pine Bluff made six straight field goals including two each from J’marlos Johnson, Thomas and Murray. With about 5:05 left in the third, the Zebras had taken a 42-26 lead.
“They were playing physical out there,” Smith said. “I believed the game was out of reach, but they weren’t going down without a fight.
“They were doing some hard fouls and some intentional fouls that led to some technicals.”
With about 58 seconds left in the third quarter, Johnson hit a bucket and was fouled. Two technical fouls were called and Pine Bluff made 5 of 6 from the free throw line to take a 54-33 lead.
By the end of the third quarter, the Zebras had a 57-33 lead following a bucket by Johnson.
“Their physical play caught me off guard,” Smith said. “But you are going to get some games like that.
“But with that, you kind of find out the mentality of your team.”
Thomas led the Zebras with 17 points and Murray chipped in with 11 points. Johnson netted 11 and Beasley contributed with nine points.
“That’s what you want,” Smith said. “You want to distribute the ball kind of evenly and pass it up to the open man.
“…That’s what we did tonight.”
Pine Bluff will play Little Rock McClellan today at 3:30 p.m. in the second round of the Zebra Invitational. McClellan defeated Dumas 71-69 Friday in the first game of the day.